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vol. 1, p. 35
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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< The Relations of the Human Brain to Spiritual Phenomena (continued from page 1-34) >

it was made under the discouragement and annoyance of the occasional fraud and imposture in spiritual seances which mingle with genuine phenomena, so as to disgust and repel superficial and prejudiced inquirers. In the only instance in which I have personally tested a materializing seance, about twenty years ago, at Cincinnati, I found it to be an unmistakable imposture, although the parties concerned were a branch of the same family which had produced many unquestionable materializations in Meigs County, Ohio. These impostures, I believe, will produce a good effect in checking blind credulity, and in repelling from the spiritual sphere a class of dogmatic, stubborn and superficial people, whose co-operation in any good cause is by do means desirable. They who cannot recognize diamonds when they are mingled with common earth, will not be successful as explorers, or do much to enlarge the area of philosophy.

Trusting that your book may serve to attract the wise and good alone.

I remain yours cordially,

J. R. Buchanan

Dispelling Thunder by Ringing Church Bells

Electricity has played so many “fantastic tricks before high heaven,” has killed so many humans, animals, and got up so many “thundering big rows,” during the ages, that one is more than surprised at the small part performed by the so-called “intuitions of the soul” in correction or modification of these “freaks of Nature.” An instructive chapter in the interests of experimental philosophy and science is called for to enable “the curious to understand this mystery of the mind better,—for as the matter is now stated, it is difficult to believe in the truthfulness of statements like the following, and attach any practical importance to the prompting of intuition at the same lime. We quote from Henry Belinaye, “Surgeon Extraordinary,” &c., &c., who, in his “Sources of Health and Disease,” says,—

“Electricity, pervading all bodies in Nature, has naturally become the subject of earnest and interesting inquiry, and it is only recently that its connection with Magnetism has been distinctly traced and proved; still, doubtless, much remains to be known of it, in relation to ourselves. What lias been already ascertained, however, is far from sterile in its application to the uses of life, were we to instance only the conductors, by which so many lives have been saved, both on sea and on land, and its, application to the cure of disease. In the former particular, its laws should be made an especial object of study. It is not many years since people were continually killed by the habit of ringing the bells of churches to dispel thunder. In 1718, twenty-four churches in a small compass of country in Lower Brittany, were struck in this way by lightning, in one night. It has been estimated that in thirty-three years three hundred and eighty-six churches were struck by lighting in France, and one hundred and three bell-ringers killed. In England, aid in our times, the same thing may occur; for we have recent examples of churches being struck, in an electrical state of the atmosphere, and persons killed, while ringing bells for divine service.”

These figures being true, it is evident the “Divine Economy” “is no respecter of persons,”—being thoroughly practical in applying the principle of “equal taxation” to church property and ecclesiastical ignorance.

Frauds and Tests

Answer to Cooper

To the Editor of The Spiritual Scientist:

Sir : The comments of Mr. Robert Cooper, of England upon my assertion that I could not obtain such opportunities for applying tests to the Eddys as I desired, were suitably answered in your editorial postcript to his letter, in the Scientist of last week; and I might well be excused from taking any further notice of so shallow a critic. But, as the occasion seems favorable for a few pertinent hints to investigators of the Spiritualistic phenomena, I ask your indulgence.

Mr. Cooper says that, from his knowledge “based upon a fortnight's experience at Mr. Eddy's residence,” he considers the remark that I could not obtain what I desired in the manner I desired, “wholly unwarranted and uncalled for.” To which I reply that, from my knowledge, based upon a residence at Chittenden and vicinity nearly three months, I say that it was an enormous loss to the public that I was not afforded as perfect test conditions there as I was in Philadelphia and Havana, as Mr. Crookes was in London, or Prof. Wagner in St. Petersburg, Prof. Hare in Philadelphia, and Mr. Cooper, himself, in the presence of Mrs. Thayer and Mrs Fay. If my book has any value it is due to the fact that I have endorsed no phenomena that I did not see occur under absolutely satisfactory conditions. What may be my private opinion of the genuineness of the Eddy phenomena is one thing; what I am able to swear to before a council of savants, another. If I had not been well satisfied that I was witnessing genuine spirit materialization, I should not have wasted time and hard labor upon the case; and the plain, unvarnished narrative of my experiences, with all my reservations and caution against credulous belief, has satisfied that Master of Science, Mr. Wallace, that I have proved my case.

Compare the crude, unsupported, unscientific results reported for the Spiritual press every week, as to convincing force, with the stories of what Crookes, Wallace, Varley, Hare, Flammarion and Wagner have done, and then say if such preposterous objections as these of this Mr. Cooper, to the taking of common-sense precautions, have any weight, consider the fate of poor, dear Mr. Owen, the purest of pure men, the honestest of honest investigators, and say if test conditions are “wholly unwarranted and uncalled for.”

If Mr. Cooper wants to know how his Eddy reports are viewed in his own country, let him turn to the London Spiritualist of May 14th, and he will find the editor saying that “Mr. Cooper has not proved that a different kind of manifestations” (that is from the duplications, and elongations of the medium's form, particularly Mr. Home’s) “was witnessed by him at Chittenden, for he did not see the faces of the spirits etc.” ln fact Mr. Cooper himself, (in the Religio-Philosophical Journal, of May 1,) admits that “the great drawback of the materialization seance is that the figures do not appear in a sufficiently strong light to he satisfactorily visible;” and, at his seance of March 17th, at the Eddy Homestead, when a figure which purported to be that of his wife, appeared, he tells us; “The light was not strong enough for me to identify the features; all that I could see was &c., &c.” He actually could not tell whether or not his diseased wife confronted him, and yet, in your paper last week, he says; “To my mind there is a great deal of unnecessary fuss made about testing mediums, and when as in the case of the Eddys the manifestations are given under such conditions that the facts speak for themselves, I cannot wonder at the mediums objecting to a lot of ridiculous expedients being resorted to for the sake of proving what it is unnecessary to prove.”

Now what slop this is for a man to talk who wishes the public to believe he sees what he pretends to see! If the Spiritualists want to go on another twenty-seven years, swallowing everything that is put into their open mouths by false mediums and giggling, elementary spirits, let them do so; but it does seem as if it were high time for the general public to know just how much of all these phenomena arc genuine.

Look at this business of “spirit-photography.” Was there ever a more impudent swindle than most of this class of ‘'manifestations’? A trickey photographer takes a sitter's portrait, exposes it, for an instant, in the developing room to another negative, before the lamp, and lo! behind the green victim’s head appears the shadowy form of somebody who does duty, by turns, for grandmother, cousin, sister, aunt, or “guide.” Or, mayhap, by the same hocus-pocus, messages are photographed in the dark, or mystic portraits or emblems made to come upon the plate.

Again, a “medium” has in his pocket a wide-mouthed vial of concentrated ammonia, and on his little finger a ring with a sharp projection. His duped sitter writes a name upon a paper and rolls it into a pellet: which the swindler deftly removes, reads, replaces, and, presto! on his bared arm appears the name in crimson letters (made under the table the moment before, by scratching the flesh with the sharp point of the ring, or a bit of a match, and rubbing it with the ammonia). Or, a note is written by the victim, removed and read by the “medium,” replaced, and an answer is presently furnished, signed with the name desired. Or, again, a wretched, abandoned woman hides in the bosom of her dress some masks, which at the right moment she holds up at the cabinet aperature, if they are of paper, or floats in the air ii they are of thin rubber, made for that purpose.

Or, again, another swindler has a hinge arrangement in her wooden shoe-sole, by clapping which she can make as good raps as any one ever heard. Or, still again, a clever ventriloquist causes such changes of his voice and such adjustment of it to places, that “investigators” of the Cooper sort are ready to swear that the dead have spoken from beyond the grave to surviving friends.

I have said, on more than one occasion, that I protest <... continues on page 1-36 >

Editor's notes

  1. Dispelling Thunder by Ringing Church Bells by Belinaye, Henry, Spiritual Scientist, vol. I, p. 84
  2. Frauds and Tests by Olcott, H. S., Spiritual Scientist, p. 154